No ashes, no coal can burn with such glow.
As a secretive love of which no one must know.
But, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” [Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities]
She began her dark journey into light at the age of seventeen.
In that darkness, he had beaten her ‘on her bare buttocks’ in a ‘special room’ away from the family. In the light, she eventually confessed that she had felt sexual excitement when her father beat her. Her mother had raised her ‘in complete sexual ignorance.’
Suffering – both physical and emotional – with love.
Hysterical and Brilliant.
1904. Out of Russia, Sabina was sent to Zurich, Switzerland by her parents at the age of 19, for she exhibited fits of rage and was unruly. She was admitted to Burghölzli Mental Hospital, run by Paul Bleuler, and a young doctor Carl Jung had her as his first patient. She could not stand seeing others being humiliated. She had viewed God as coming through her as an inner voice, an angel. She had been praying to him, and she felt so alone. “I am alone, I am so alone, I have no one to protect me.”
It was her angel that was her guardian and leader.
But, he used the “talking cure.”
This was a new “dangerous method” first promoted by Sigmund Freud: used by Jung for the first time. Fast forward to 2011, the feature film “A Dangerous Method” is based on these turbulent relationships between fledging psychiatrist Carl Jung, his mentor Sigmund Freud, and Sabina: the presumed troubled but beautiful woman who comes between them.
She had been a young girl of distinction: by six years old she was fluent in German, French, and her native language of Russian. A precocious child she was described as being delicate and sensitive. She knew four languages, excelled in her studies, and she was accomplished on the piano. Pushed and beaten to excel in her studies, in fact her parents beat all of her younger siblings: they demanded that all of the children excel in school. She could not stand seeing others being humiliated. Bleuler recommended that she stay, so she could “be relieved of her compassion and concern for her family.”
She was successfully cured, and within a year she left the hospital. She decided to not to go back to Russia. Sabina Spielrein, a Healer Idealist, began to study medicine at the University of Zurich, and she completed a PhD in 1911 under Bleuler with Jung assisting.
“I am longing to learn as much as possible.”
She begins developing her theories of the nature of love, human sexuality, and death, and the forces of destruction and creativity. She sent her ideas and papers to both Jung and Freud. They were impressed and encouraged her. But she never got noticed or credited with the originality of her work, and the similar ideas that Jung and Freud published, which contributed to their notoriety and fame, barely if at all acknowledged her theories. Sabina Spielrein had a direct effect on both the development of psychoanalysis as well as the growth of Jung’s own ideas and techniques. She was the first person to introduce the idea of the death instincts, a concept that Freud would later adapted as part of his own theory.
1942. With her legacy of development of psychoanalysis forgotten, Sabina Spielrein, was last seen with her two daughters being marched off by the SS death squad in her home town of Rostov, Russia, to never to seen again, believed to been shot and buried with thousands of citizens of Rostov-on-Don.
After her life was cut tragically short, her contributions to psychology were largely forgotten for many years. During the 1970s, her papers and the letters she exchanged with Jung were uncovered and published.
In addition to introducing psychoanalysis to Russia, Spielrein work on a child’s development including child’s speech was pioneering. She had significant influence on other major thinkers of the time including Jean Piaget and Melanie Klein.
Spielrein’s full legacy may not yet be fully realized. While she wrote thirty psychoanalytic papers in French and German, many have not yet been translated. “The oblivion into which Spielrein has fallen is remarkable. She was a major figure in the development of the psychoanalytic movement—and a rare woman in that field,” suggests Karen Hall of the Jewish Women’s Archive. “One can only hope that more of her story will be discovered and that more research will focus on the work that Spielrein did personally. She faced many obstacles, both because she was a woman working in a predominantly male profession and because she was Jewish during a period of violent antisemitism. Her tragic death cut short a life of promise.” Jewish Women’s Archive
My name was Sabina Spielrein. I, also, once was a human being.